Bob Haight has a solution to those supply chain problems that mean a 45% longer wait for Christmas gifts delivered from overseas: Buy local.
“It’s a big topic and it’s definitely impacting us here in Cortland County,” said Haight, president of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce. “This is my advice every year — shop local as much as possible. We have local stores with good stock right now and then you can take that whole shipping time worry out of it.”
If you see the product on a local retailer’s shelf, it’s here, ready to buy. Some of it is made nearby, too, such as artisan wares you can find in Cortland. That can’t always be said of products you might order through a big-box retailer or online seller.
The average time it takes for ocean freight to go door-to-door has increased 45% over the past year, from 51 days to 74 days, reports Freightos. Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the United States. As of Monday evening, 73 container ships were at anchor, waiting to unload.
Normally, there’s no wait for container ships to unload, said Kevin Ketels, a lecturer in global supply chain management at Wayne State University.
“These are major delays,” he said, and that can have an effect on greater Cortland area businesses.
Steve Wineberg, owner of Bernard’s Custom Logo & Trophy in Cortland, said it’s becoming harder to find the product he needs for new custom orders — what used to be a 10-minute search on his computer is now two hours of visiting his five vendors.
“One day, I can go and try to order black T-shirts and I won’t find a double-extra large anywhere in the country,” Wineberg said. “A week later, and the extra-large is there but I can’t find a medium,” Wineberg said.
Wineberg uses five of the biggest global vendors for his products, so he’ll always find what he needs eventually, but he warns customers to order ahead for the holidays.
“Depending on the items, some things I can turn around in three days, but other things might take three weeks,” Wineberg said.
The nationwide supply chain crisis is affecting businesses of all sizes, Haight said. He’s talked with employees at big box retailers, who have said the warehouses are full of products but the company’s lack truckers to get the items into the stores.
That’s not a problem for Bushy’s Pro-Shine Auto Detailing in Cortland, which offers gift certificates during the holiday season. The product is labor, not something from Asia or Europe.
“More and more people buy them because they’re a great gift,” Bushnell said. “Sometimes it’s hard to buy for people. When they get a gift card for a car cleaning, once they do it they’re back every year, so it keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Bushnell said he’s noticed people will buy the gift certificates as Christmas gifts, and then the recipients will come to his shop in the spring to get their cars cleaned after months of snow and road salt.
“When people come here, they feel like they’re being taken care unlike going to Walmart or another big box store,” Bushnell said.
“People need to shop local,” Wineberg said. Smaller, local businesses will often go out of their way to make the customer happy and get the order right.
“Another thing that often people miss out on is getting a local service as a gift,” Haight said. “That could be getting someone who is hard to shop for a car detailing or an oil change. Those are wonderful gifts that everybody appreciates, and there’s no problem with worrying about is it going to ship in time.”
The Chamber of Commerce is organizing its annual Small Business Saturday event, which takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s in response to Black Friday, which according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index probably won’t offer the customary 10% to 30% discounts. It predicts 5% discounts.
But the local retailers will still do business on Small Business Saturday, Haight said.
“That’s the day that we want to encourage people to come out and shop and eat locally, and just have a blast,” Haight said. “We’ll have a team for downtown Homer and a team in downtown Cortland, and we’ll be talking to retail businesses and restaurants soon to learn about the special they’re offering.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.